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Seniors Can Beat Injury This Winter

Hazards do rise, but a few easy steps can keep elderly safe this season

SUNDAY, Jan. 1, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- What many people regard as a winter wonderland can be a minefield of safety hazards for older adults, with snow and ice a major cause of debilitating falls. Cold weather, lack of exercise and isolation can take their toll, too.

To help seniors stay safe this winter, experts at the University of Indianapolis offer up these tips:

  • Put your best foot forward. Wear appropriate footwear with good traction when outdoors.
  • Clear the way. Spread road salt, sand or kitty litter on sidewalks and driveways.
  • Don't do too much. If public sidewalks haven't been cleared, ask friends or neighbors for help with grocery shopping and other errands. Find someone else to handle snow shoveling and other strenuous and potentially dangerous outdoor chores.
  • Exercise indoors. This could mean walking in place, riding a stationary bicycle or working out with a fitness video. Daily stretching exercises help maintain flexibility. Before you start any exercise program, consult with your doctor.
  • Dress for the weather. Cold temperatures are a serious threat to seniors, especially those with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Inadequate warm clothing can result in frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Stay warm inside. Keep houses heated to above 65 degrees F and dress in layers to maintain body heat. Individuals who have difficulty paying the heating bill should contact their heating supplier for ways to continue service through the winter.
  • Watch out for a silent killer. If you have a fireplace, gas furnace or gas-powered heater, install carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
  • Stay in touch. Make an effort to socialize with family, friends and neighbors. Depression is more common in the winter and bad weather can mean social isolation for older adults. If you can't visit in person, have a telephone chat.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more winter safety tips.

SOURCE: University of Indianapolis, news release, December 2005
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